Pearl Argyle

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Pearl Argyle
Pearl Argyle.jpg
Born Pearl Wellman
(1910-11-07)7 November 1910
Johannesburg, South Africa
Died 29 January 1947(1947-01-29) (aged 36)
New York City, US
Nationality South African
Occupation Ballet dancer and actor

Pearl Argyle (7 November 1910 – 29 January 1947) was a South African dancer and actor. Her career included leading roles in productions for the Ballet Rambert and Vic-Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet), in stage musicals and in films such as H. G. Wells' Things to Come.

Early life[edit]

She was born Pearl Wellman in Johannesburg on 7 November 1910 and studied in London under Marie Rambert and Nicolas Legat.


Frederick Ashton, a fellow member of Rambert's Ballet Club, described her as 'the most beautiful woman of her generation' and she inspired choreographers Ashton and Andrée Howard to create roles for her.

In 1931, Argyle created roles in Ashton's Façade and The Lady of Shalott.[1]

Sacheverell Sitwell was also an admirer and her influence can be traced in works such as 'The Dance of the Quick and the Dead' (1936).[2] She also worked briefly with George Balanchine in Les Ballets 1933.[3]

She joined the Vic-Wells Ballet in 1935, taking leading roles including in Ashton's Le Baiser de la Fée (1935) and Ninette de Valois's The Gods go a'Begging (1936). She left the Vic-Wells ballet in 1938.[4]

Argyle starred in several films, including as Eve Desborough in That Night in London (1932), Anna Pavlova in Royal Cavalcade (1934) and Catherine Cabal in Things to Come (1936). Her final film was Night in December (1941).

She married the German-born film director Curtis Bernhardt in 1936 and moved with him to the United States in 1938, where she performed in several Broadway musicals including One Touch of Venus (1943) by Kurt Weill and Agnes de Mille, but chose not to pursue her film career.[5] They had two children, Tony and Steven Bernhardt.[6]

Later life[edit]

Pearl Argyle died in New York on 29 January 1947 (attributed variously to a car accident and a brain haemorrhage) and was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bradford, Sarah et al 'The Sitwells and the Arts of the 1920s and 1930s' (Texas University Press 1996) p209
  3. ^ Bernard Taper 'Balanchine: a Biography' (University of California Press 1996) p142
  4. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Dance
  5. ^ Haskell, Arnold 'Balletomane at Large' (Heinemann 1972) p67.
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times obituary 26 August 1999.